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EF: Last year you announced a very important collaboration that showcases Novo Nordisk’s commitment to a Healthier and Self-sustainable Africa. What are your top priorities currently? 

SN: Over 100 years ago, Novo Nordisk was established, and built on addressing diabetes, and that mission still drives us today. We've broadened our focus because we understand that diabetes isn't isolated—it's linked with other health issues like obesity and other chronic diseases. So, our mission now includes defeating serious chronic and interconnected challenges. This year, our priority remains to ensure innovative care access across various therapeutic areas in South Africa. Additionally, we're passionate about our prevention initiative, Cities For Better Health. It's not just about treatment; we're dedicated to prevention and understanding the root causes of diseases like diabetes and obesity. We're collaborating with partners such as the City of Johannesburg and the Wits Health Consortium to make a positive impact at the local level. 

The second point I want to highlight is about supply. COVID-19 affected many industries, not just pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the need for better local manufacturing support in Africa post-pandemic. Over 80% of medicines are imported to Africa, but the WHO aims for quality and affordable medications made locally. We're proud of our partnership with Aspen, through which we will be producing human insulin in South Africa, serving the country and the continent. By 2026 our aim is that through this partnership we will be able to supply insulin to over 4 million patients across Africa. Ensuring sustainable supply for those in need is a top priority for us. 

EF: How would you rate the level of awareness of obesity and diabetes in South Africa? Could you elaborate on the prevention initiatives you are working on? 

SN: Johannesburg stands out as Africa's first and only city to commit to driving change with Novo Nordisk, initially focusing on diabetes. Now, our aim is broader: to enhance overall health. Diabetes isn't a standalone issue; various factors contribute to it. We're particularly targeting urban areas, where we've observed a significant rise in diabetes due to lifestyle changes and job opportunities. However, urban environments including unhealthy diet and inactivity, contribute to rising incidents of diabetes and other chronic diseases That's why we're championing Cities for Better Health, recognizing cities as hubs for health improvement. We're addressing the holistic health challenges cities face. South Africa is especially noteworthy in this global initiative as one of six countries selected to tackle childhood obesity. Currently, our country has a significant portion of people living with obesity including adolescents. With approximately 20 million obese individuals comprising almost a third of the population and 23% of them being adolescents, it's evident that the issue is pressing and requires immediate attention. 

Our projects aim to collaborate with partners, including the government and healthcare sectors, to understand these factors better. Together, we seek sustainable solutions, ensuring equal access to education, proper diet, and care. Our goal is to prevent this issue from escalating further. 

EF: What was your pitch to attract investment and be chosen as one of the nations to run these pilot programs? Why is a dollar spent in South Africa better than anywhere else? 

SN: It all began with our diabetes partnerships, where we aimed to make changes in Johannesburg. We partnered with clinics to improve literacy and access to food gardens. In Soweto, we worked with schools to educate and provide them with nutritious food through our food garden initiatives. We also collaborated with the local government to raise awareness about non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and how to tackle them together. It's been a collaborative effort with various partners, and the openness of everyone involved has put South Africa on the global stage. We've identified a real need and have willing partners ready to find solutions. With this kind of collaboration, we're set up for success. 

Our Cities for Better Health Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative (COPI) begins this year. The first step involved bringing together partners from various sectors to understand the root causes and assess our impact. We hosted a successful kick-off meeting for South Africa on 23-24 May in Johannesburg, with participation from local and provincial governments in Gauteng and Academia, all providing valuable insights about the work they are already doing. The passion in the meeting was truly inspiring and we were all energized by the joint commitment. 

This program is a fantastic opportunity to understand better and take more effective action, especially in under-resourced communities, to shape healthier environments and influence behaviors related to food access, affordability and physical activity. We're also considering policies, like the recent one in South Africa focused on obesity prevention, which aligns well with Novo Nordisk's social responsibility goals. We aim to accelerate obesity prevention in adolescents, particularly in these communities. Over the three-year initiative, we'll explore what drives behaviors related to healthy food access and physical activity, among other factors. I'm also excited to see the outcomes and learn from our partners in other participating countries. It's an exciting project, and one I am personally passionate about. 

EF: What are some of the key values and strategies you have as a manager to incorporate the mission into your employees to ensure that everyone understands this one mission and goal, that led you to be the top employer in Africa? 

SN: Regarding creating a better workplace, at Novo Nordisk, we follow the Novo Nordisk way, which consists of ten global values. These values have been consistent over the years, emphasizing how we operate as an organization. These values also reflect our commitment to focusing not only on being the best organization on paper but also on the lived working experience of our people. We understand that our people are crucial to our success. One of our values centers on fostering a healthy and engaging workplace, which is an ongoing journey. 

We don't just focus on one-time initiatives; we engage in various organizational activities. These activities unite different parts of the organization, providing environments where people can freely express their views and ideas. For instance, we host Culture Cafes where employees gather to discuss inclusion, diversity, and maintaining a healthy workplace. Another initiative we have is the "LT Boots on the Ground" initiative, where our leadership team spends time with employees in different parts of the organization to understand their daily experiences better. By immersing ourselves in their day-to-day routines, we gain insights into how we can better support them. These initiatives reflect our commitment to staying connected with our employees and fostering a supportive and engaging work environment. 

We prioritize a healthy workplace with various activities like yoga, exercise sessions, and stress management coaching. We also organize healthy hikes, like the one we did last week up Lion's Head Peak in Cape Town. Taking on physical challenges benefits us personally and professionally by boosting our own confidence. We constantly seek feedback to adapt our initiatives to the evolving needs of our people, aiming to create an environment where everyone can thrive. With 77% females in our organization, we're proud of our gender diversity. However, diversity isn't just about numbers; it's about leveraging different perspectives. That's why we focus on creating platforms for diverse insights, like our culture cafes, to ensure inclusivity and strengthen our culture. It's a journey of continual investment to ensure we maintain a strong culture for our people. 

EF: How do your core values guide your decision-making processes and overall business strategy, especially in the dynamic and ever-changing landscape in South Africa? 

SN: At Novo Nordisk, our core values serve as the foundation for everything we do. They are not just words on paper but principles that guide our actions and decisions every day. 

1. Patient-Centred Approach: Our focus on patients drives our business decisions, ensuring that we create value that truly benefits those we serve. 

2. Ambitious Goals: Setting ambitious goals motivates us to push boundaries and achieve excellence in all aspects of our operations. 

3. Accountability: We hold ourselves accountable for our financial, environmental, and social performance, ensuring transparency and responsibility in all our endeavors. 

4. Curiosity and Innovation: By fostering a culture of curiosity and innovation, we continuously strive to improve and bring new solutions to patients and society. 

5. Stakeholder Relations: Building and maintaining strong relationships with our stakeholders is crucial for mutual success and sustainability. 

6. Diversity and Respect: Valuing diversity and treating everyone with respect enriches our work environment and fosters creativity and collaboration. 

7. Performance and Development: We prioritize both performance and personal development, empowering our employees to grow and excel. 

8. Healthy Working Environment: A healthy and engaging working environment is essential for the well-being and productivity of our team. 

9. Agility and Simplicity: Striving for agility and simplicity allows us to adapt quickly to changes and streamline our processes for efficiency. 

10. Quality and Ethics: We never compromise on quality and ethics, upholding the highest standards in all our operations. 

These values not only shape our business strategy but also define our culture, ensuring that we remain true to our purpose of driving change to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic conditions. 

July 2024
South Africa